With the rise of e-mail and the Internet, some doomsayers predicted the death of the printed book. Business managers whispered the phrase "paperless office" to each other in excited tones. Some professors began accepting research papers electronically, and students groaned and moaned as usual. But has the Web replaced the printed page? Not at all.
For all the benefits of an online world, paper still has its days. Printed text and graphics are often sharper on the page than on the screen; reading long passages of text on-screen can still be awkward and uncomfortable. And the smallest and lightest laptops in the world still aren't as convenient to carry around as that rolled-up stack of paper.
Unlike many other browsers, Firefox recognizes the value of paper and makes the print experience as seamless as your online experience. In particular, Firefox offers a powerful Print Preview feature that lets you see exactly what a Web site will look like before you print it. This feature allows you to save paper by printing only the pages you need. You can even tweak the print format by changing the margins, header and footer text (the text that appears in the top and bottom margins of each page), and other features. This chapter shows you how.
Web sites and paper don't mix all that well. Web sites are dynamic, linkable, animated, and completely unconstrained by space. Paper is … well, paper. And when you try to print a Web site on it, bad things can and often do happen. Sometimes a seemingly brief article translates to a dozen sheets of paper. Other times, the printed version is too difficult to read because it's surrounded by silly ads that have lost their animated vigor and are no longer clickable. Designing content for the screen just isn't the same as designing it for paper.
To bridge the gap, many Web sites offer special print-friendly versions of their content that are more amenable to the paper format. These versions typically remove surrounding ads, enlarge text size, remove background colors and images, and format the content into columns to deliver a more magazine-like experience. Web sites offer print-friendly formats in different ways. Some link to a separate page from the original article, so you must click through to the page and print that one instead. Increasingly, however, Web sites are taking advantage of a new browser feature that allows them to specify a print format that automatically takes effect when you print the original article. In other words, you don't need to look for a special option — it just works.
A good rule is to use Print Preview to see how a particular Web site will look on paper. If you don't like what you see, examine the Web site to see whether it links to a print-friendly version.